Thursday, May 24, 2007

A month or more ago, the good folks at Destination Out asked me to contribute a Jazz in the 90s Top 10 list for their site. They've been running various folks' lists all week; mine appeared today. It's a salient cutoff date for me as it was just around 1990 that I began to realize that there was less and less contemporary jazz being produced that excited me, that the feeling of "treading water" I was getting from new jazz releases grew strong enough that I could no longer ignore it.

I included Derek Bailey's "Guitar Solos, Vol. 2", pictured above, on the list for two reasons: One, of course, I think it's a fantastic recording. But second, it was the one that really made me reconsider what was going on in improvised music at the time. I'd first heard Bailey very early on in my listening experience, on the Music Improvisation Company album released on ECM and subsequently on the other "Guitar Solos, Vol, 2", the compilation with Frith, Reichel and Fitzgerald from '75. While I'd always retained a certain amount of interest and affection for those dates, I turned away from Euro-improv in general in the late 70s, going full-bore for AACM and related jazz. Part of this, as I may have mentioned before, derived from several lackluster (at least I thought so at the time--I may have been wrong) performances at Environ by some European luminaries, music that struck me as effete when compared with the AEC, Braxton, Cecil, etc.

By '90 or so, however, your average AEC album had become a pretty predictable affair, and if Brax and Cecil still put out the occasional great CD, there were few jazz musicians below whatever my age was at a given time (36 in 1990) producing anything vital, anything that didn't smack of simply a reworking of already arid ideas. A reintroduction to Bailey's music, then, came at precisely the right time and carried with it an extraordinary sense of freshness and invention. So I delved into all these musicians who I'd pretty much avoided for 15 years at the same time as I tried to maintain (and succeeded for a while) interest in the downtown NYC scene. By mid-decade, it shifted to AMM, post-AMM, etc.......

So, when asked for a Top 10 favorite jazz releases from the 90s, I find myself thinking of a few from older US musicians (Braxton, Taylor, Dixon) and more from, as it turns out, older Brits (Bailey, Guy, Parker, Prevost, Rogers).

I'm sure that's the last such I'll ever be able to produce as I'm pretty certain I couldn't come up with 10 from this decade with gun to head. Braxton's "Composition 247", though calling that "jazz" is a stretch. Cecil at to think.....

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